February 19, 2020

Process of creating a Visual identity

A professionally designed visual identity will bring your brand name to life and add credibility.

It’s important to invest in a well-planned identity from the start. As Alexandra Watkins mentions in her book “Hello, my name is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names that stick”, you get what you pay for so this isn’t something you should skimp on.

A visual identity

A Visual identity is a term we use for visual elements that help the public and targeted audiences achieve brand differentiation, recognition and awareness. Visual identity can consist of your website and app design, social media sites, presentations, printed materials, product packaging, business cards, digital letterhead, signage, trade show booth design, T-shirt and promotional items.

A brand

In his book “The Brand Gap”, Marty Neumeier begins by explaining a common misconception: A brand is not a logo, not a corporate identity system and not a product. A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company. A successful brand uses its unique set of values to drive a successful business strategy - to encourage consumers to choose it over its competitors. In other words, it must achieve a high degree of recognition by consumers.

A brand is all about the emotions people feel when hearing your name or seeing your trademark. Define what makes your brand different from others - what makes you unique? What will be the benefits of this brand for the consumer? By defining your USP (unique selling point) you will be able to develop a clear communication strategy.

Milka visual identity

The creator, Philippe Suchard, founded a confectionary in 1825. During the 1890s, milk was added to Suchard's chocolate. After his death in 1884, his children took over the business.

In 1901, the first Milka chocolate was packaged in the famous lilic-coloured packaging. The name is a combination of the German words for MILK and COCO. By the 1960s the Milka script logo and packaging were trademarked.

Milka visual identity has gone through many changes since 1901. The colour lilac is identified as the most significant element in communicating the brand’s heritage. It symbolises softness and tenderness.

During the rebranding in 2000, Landor’s Creative director Jorg Willich highlighted the significance of the mountains since the Alps symbolise nature and purity, signifying the Swiss heritage of the brand.Check out the Milka logo guideline.

The process

Phase 1: Discovery (Duration: 1 week)

During this phase we research about the market and competitors, read client’s inputs from the submitted Brief. It is very important that you write accurate and specific inputs in the Brief as this is what we will use to define the brands look and feel.

Several techniques and tools help us define a visual direction and ensure that everyone is on the same page. In her book “Creating a Brand identity: A guide for designer”, Catharine Slade-Brooking describes the process of Competitor brand analysis as a method for evaluating and comparing a brand’s main competitors. The goal is to recognise who they are, how they are positioning themselves, what products and services they offer and how consumers are talking about them. This approach helps us differentiate ourselves and highlight potential advantages.

Key factors to explore during the analysis are:
- Who is the competition?
- Who is their target audience?
- What market do they serve?
- What is their price point?
- How popular are they on the market?
- What is their key message?
- What is their unique selling point?
- What are their strengths?
- What is the brand’s tone of voice?
- What is their typeface?
- What is their colour palette?
- What is their brand icon/logo?

Phase 2: Conceptual project (Duration: 2 week​​​​​​​s)

Depending on the client's budget, we like to create 2 or 3 logo proposals, present them to the client and make alterations. The client must then pick 1 solution.

During this phase, we might organise a workshop for developing Brand messaging and Brand strategy. This will help us agree on the look & feel you want to achieve, the brands tone of voice, target audience, strengths and beliefs. It will also help you define an Onliness Statement and Elevator Pitch.

The Onliness Statement is the most powerful test of a strategic position, originally developed by Marty Neumeier in his brand strategy book called “Zag”. The statement can be created by filling out this short form:
[Company Name] is THE ONLY (category)
THAT (differentiation characteristic)
FOR (customer)
IN (market geography)
WHO (need state)
DURING (underlying trend)​​​​​​​

An Elevator pitch should spark interest in 30-60 seconds. The people you randomly meet might turn out to be your ideal client, consumer or business partner!

While identifying your ideal customers (target audience), we might create a Consumer-profile board. This board captures the visual outline of the type of person the brand is targeting and can be made up from a range of images about the consumer. There are no limits, you can include as much detail as you want:
- their age, gender and ethnic group,
- social status and lifestyle (what kind of car do they drive, where do they live),
- their job (how much is their income, what is their profession),
- interests (what sports, music, art, or films do they like),
- their family (do they have kids) and friends (are they social, do they go out to eat),
- needs and aspirations. ​​​​​​​

At the end of this phase, we present the client 2-3 solutions for the Visual identity. The client picks his or her favourite and we continue with the next phase.

Phase 3: Final project (Duration: 1 week)

We define a colour scheme and add colour to the logo (this can also be part of the Conceptual phase). A Visual Style Guide presents how the identity should be implemented into your website, app, or on stationary (business cards, letterheads, envelopes, packaging) and everything else you might use while doing business.​​​​

Phase 4: Delivery phase (Duration: 1 week​​​​​) ​

After the Approval sign-off document has been signed and the client has paid all issued invoices, all the creative deliverables are sent to the client via email.

Be careful when entrusting your work to a freelancer, IT or printing company. Hire a professional graphic design firm who has a portfolio full of cohesive Visual Identity projects.

Author: Odinea Sudic, project manager